“For the past two weeks, you have been reading about a bad break,” Gehrig instructed the group, his voice thick with emotion, making the final phrase sound extra like ‘brag.’ “(Yet) today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
Gehrig was an unlikely American hero. The son of poor immigrant mother and father, he was born in New York in 1903. “If it wasn’t for baseball, he really had very few prospects,” says Jonathan Eig, creator of “Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig.”
It was at Columbia University in 1921 that Gehrig first found baseball. Spotted by a expertise scout, he was later signed to the Yankees in 1923.
“He’s the ‘Iron Horse,’ he’s the train: he shows up every day for work,” Eig says.
Despite his Hall of Fame profession, Gehrig by no means sought the limelight, says Eig — and with charismatic and controversial teammates, together with Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, Gehrig had little issue avoiding consideration.
But in 1939, he began lacking the ball and took himself out of the line-up. When he was identified with ALS six weeks later, his baseball profession formally ended. His retirement got here as a shock to teammates and followers alike, and the ceremony on July four put the highlight firmly on him, the place he reluctantly took the mic.
“Gehrig told the MC that he didn’t want to speak, that he was too moved to say anything. The crowd began to cheer, began to chant, ‘We want Lou, We want Lou,’ and finally Gehrig’s manager, Joe McCarthy, gave him a little shove and Lou went up to the microphone,” says Eig.
Filled with thanks for his teammates and household, the speech is an train in gratitude — “When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed,” he stated, “that’s the finest I know” — all of the extra outstanding given what Gehrig was dealing with.
“There’s a great lesson there for all of us, because we are all going to face tragedy. We are all going to die,” says Eig. “What Gehrig is saying is that it’s not the longevity that counts: it’s the quality of the life.”
Searching for a remedy
Activities will range from stadium to stadium relying on pandemic restrictions, says Falivena, and gamers, managers and coaches will put on particular uniform patches and crimson “4-ALS” wristbands bearing Gehrig’s retired Yankees’ uniform quantity, symbolizing a relationship that was cemented on a summer time day in 1939 when Gehrig bid farewell.
“I might have been given a bad break,” he instructed the followers that day, “but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”
Falivena says that Gehrig and his speech “reflect the community of people with ALS.”
“They are people who, for the most part, are just extremely positive and face this devastating disease with hope, grace, and a fighting spirit,” he says. “I think that relates really well with Lou: he’s not only remembered as a great player, but as a good person.”